Sometimes you listlessly tweet about wanting to hear a Pedro the Lion song done in the style of Jawbreaker, and then someone makes it on his lunch break. —Lars Gotrich
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MEGA X, NEW MYTHTAKES (KiliKiliVilla): Has this punky Japanese indie-pop band been rifling through my record collection? Whip-smart melodies, whip-fast whoo-ooo-ooo's, big fuzzy power chords and shout/sung male/female harmonies teetering on tunefulness that liberally borrow from The Muffs, Superchunk, Fastbacks and Mates of State, but inject a raucous basement-show joy into every dang song.
Police and Pea, I Want an Authentic Tail (Maybe Mars): According to Google translation: Police and Pea is Huahd Stanley Pluto from Shijiazhuang, China; she previously made bedroom-pop, but got access to a studio; these are songs about potatoes, ghosts, sponge pets and Ip Man. P&P's pop sensibilities are pure, but playfully obfuscated, not unlike The Olivia Tremor Control, Daniel Johnston or early Flaming Lips — piano-and-trumpet ballads are offset by a din of distortion, downer folk songs are dotted by synth squiggles, cheesy karaoke backing tracks are growled over, lo-fi disco bops are moaned through, doomy riffs bed grimm fairy tales. I Want an Authentic Tail is fireworks made from flowers, hot dogs made of fingers — everything's off, but exactly where it should be.
Michael Tanner, Vespers / The Blackening (Objects Forever): I've loved Michael Tanner's folkloric wanderings for many years now, particularly the wintry records he's made as Plinth and with Áine O'Dwyer in The Cloisters. He captures the hushed awe of nature with spectral and organic sound — somewhere between Jeweled Antler and GY!BE. These tracks were mostly recorded and processed live in a graveyard during quarantine — autoharp, zither and harmonium sent through reverb and delay, communing with snapped twigs and chirping birds.
Bygone, Demo 2022 (self-released): Get in losers, we're going to the parking lot to crush some tall boys. This is numbskull arena-rock played by doom-metal miscreants raised on St. Vitus and Van Halen keyboard solos. Don't know who's in this Boston band, though, besides Connor Donegan (who has been every D.C. hardcore band from the last decade). As far as retro projects go, Bygone's got the dirtbag riffs, raw Manilla Road-style epics and bargain-bin Ozzy howl down (I mean this in the best way), but like Sheer Mag, roughs everything up with a punk 'tude.
Gates of Hopeless, In the Twilight of Nocturne (Retribution Network / Salsa Verde / Nuclear Family / Bound By Modern Age): When an old-school metalcore record gets released by several labels across the globe, there is simply no choice but to pick up change. Osaka's Gates of Hopeless checks all of the '90s boxes ✅ mean-mugged chugs à la Earth Crisis ✅ hardcore breakdowns that will cause disrespect in the pit ✅threatening song titles with militant vegan or animal liberation themes ✅ thrashy Slayer crossover riffs ✅ ripping Morbid Angel riffs ✅ an unnecessary-but-still-very-welcome amount of tom fills ✅ vocalist who can spit, gurgle and ough!, but also pause for melodramatic spoken word. Extremely designed to be my jam.
JUNATIME, Remember the Magic (Joyful Noise / BIG EGO): Sophisticated, soulful and spray-curled synth-pop. JUNATIME's Heather Sommerhauser is unabashedly in love with the '80s, but has a keen ear to what makes us nostalgic for that sound. I'm cheating here a bit because my copy of the record came with a cassette titled Alternate Airwaves, featuring an '80s mix of Kate Bush, Yes, Foreigner, XTC, Janet Jackson, Tears for Fears, Thomas Dolby, Prefab Sprout — a sonic palette for Sommerhauser and producer Chris Schlarb. With compressed and chorus-heavy guitar solos, outrageous saxophone and Yamaha DX7, there's a cosmopolitan glint to these glitter-bombed pop songs. (Full disclosure: I've written the liner notes to an upcoming BIG EGO release.)
Stream the Viking's Choice playlist via BNDCMPR. Tracklist below:
MEGA X, "Find Your Toy"
Police and Pea, "SpongeStephen"
Michael Tanner, "Vespers Pt. 2"
Bygone, "Last Horses of Avalon"
Gates of Hopeless, "Seventh Strife"
JUNATIME, "Afraid of What"
Naujawanan Baidar, "Akram Yari اکرم یاری"
Lincoln, "Repair and Reward"
Janel Leppin, "Woven Forest - She Had Synesthesia (edit)"
Nora Brown, "Little Satchel"
Bill Orcutt, "Two things close together"
Larry Norman, "Pardon Me"
Masahiko Togashi Quartet, "Speed & Space #1"
Municipal Waste, "High Speed Steel"
Jane Remover, "Royal Blue Walls"
Enslave, "White Turns Pale"
Dungen, "Nattens Sista Strimma Ljus"
Anna Butterss, "Doo Wop"
Star Party, "Forgetful"
Kean Farrar, "Out of My Head"
Dust Star, "Work It Out"
Lieven Martens & M. Sage, "Rodeo Daughters"